Dementia: Having a conversation with my mother

John Halewood Dodd

John Halewood Dodd

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I have mentioned previously that I am often surprised, and certainly flattered, by the number of people who read my ramblings and take time to comment on them when they bump into me.

I remain overwhelmed by the unbelievably kind people who continue to inquire about the health of my mother. Most have never met her, and only know of her from what they have read in this newspaper.

For those who are unaware, my mother has dementia and has been in full-time residential care in Carlisle for 15 months. Her health does not seem to have deteriorated too dramatically over that time, and for that I have to be grateful.

I visit her as often as I can, but believe me it never feels like it’s often enough.

Whenever I leave, she always asks when I’ll next be visiting and seems genuinely pleased when I say it will definitely be soon. That said, she’s often unable to remember previous visits.

All my family, including my three younger brothers, remain in Carlisle so thankfully she isn’t short of visitors.

I was there on Tuesday last week and, as I signed the visitors’ book, I saw that my brother Stephen had been the night before. When I asked mum how Stephen was she told me she’d had no visitors for weeks.

This is what is so frustrating about this horrible disease. In my mother’s case, she is able to hold a normal, lucid conversation but then will forget, within what seems like seconds, that the person she had been speaking to was even there.

I know this is extremely common for those afflicted by dementia, but it remains difficult to come to terms with. On Tuesday she asked me how my kids were no fewer than ten times in an hour.

Even if I were to point this out to her, it would make no difference as she would be unable to remember. As such, I find myself telling her all about her grandchildren as if it were the first time she’d asked.

I know many others are in a similar position, so will know how frustrating it can be. My advice is to enjoy just being in the presence of those you love regardless of how difficult it can sometimes be.